REVIEW: ‘Young Justice: Phantoms,’ Episode 20 – “Forbidden Secrets of Civilizations Past!”

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Young Justice Phantoms Episode 20 - But Why Tho

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 20 serves as the penultimate episode of the Rocket story arc, and features a trio of storylines. Rocket (Denise Boutte) continues to attempt to negotiate with the New Gods and the Green Lantern Corps, despite Orion’s  (Ben Diskin) insistence that Halo and Cyborg be turned over to New Genesis due to their fusion with the Mother and Father Boxes. Meanwhile, Lor-Zod (Phil Morris) breaks into the Mobius Dimension that the New God Metron (Phil LaMarr) inhabits, intending to free his father General Zod (also voiced by Morris). The General himself is helping Superboy (Nolan North) navigate the Phantom Zone, which turns out to have more Kryptonian refugees.

If that sounds like a lot for one episode, it is – and I haven’t even gotten to the therapy scene between Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) and Black Canary (Vanessa Marshall). Though writer/co-showrunner Greg Weisman does his best to balance each thread, it can’t help but feel like the episode is losing focus. This is especially disconcerting because yet again, Rocket doesn’t feel like the focus of the episode – and this is supposed to be her story arc! And it isn’t a great look that this is happening to a Black superheroine, especially one of the major characters of the Milestone universe. While this isn’t the first time a Young Justice episode has felt overstuffed with plot points, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the results.

That being said, the scene between Beast Boy and Black Canary is well-written and emotionally fraught. Though Beast Boy pretends that everything is all right, soon he breaks down as he confesses that he feels responsible for Superboy’s death, as well as the loss of the Doom Patrol and his mother. I love that Weisman handles this scene with care; Canary doesn’t prod Beast Boy into his revelation but lets it unfurl, and Cipes’ emotional breakdown as Beast Boy provides a great contrast to Marshall’s more open demeanor as Canary. Canary is one of my favorite characters in the DC Universe, and I love the direction that Young Justice has taken with making her a therapist. And between this episode and this week’s installment of Moon Knight, the case is being made for more superhero media to address mental health.

When it comes to action, director Vinton Heuck knows how to balance action and quiet moments. Most of the episode features Lor-Zod, alongside Male’feak and Mantis, traveling through time and space in order to break into the Mobius dimension and retrieve a Phantom Zone projector. This scene is reminiscent of heist films, and like most heist films things go sideways – after all this is another dimension, and as we’ve seen from the Phantom Zone sequences things aren’t always what they seem when it comes to other dimensions.

And speaking of the Phantom Zone, Zod’s fellow Kryptonians have the making of a cult – every task they complete is followed by a mantra proclaiming the General’s glory. They even kneel before Zod; it’s a great way to pay homage to the General’s most famous moment without saying it out loud. Not only does this provide a contrast to Beast Boy and Black Canary’s therapy session, but it doesn’t bode well for Superboy as he’s still struggling to hold onto his memories.

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 20 is a mixed bag, ping-ponging across multiple story arcs while attempting to move the story forward. I don’t know if the next episode will end the Rocket story arc or if it’ll have an extra episode like Zatanna’s, but I hope that the writers give her some actual focus instead of letting her story play second fiddle to others.

New episodes of Young Justice: Phantoms are available to stream on HBO Max on Thursdays.


Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 20 - "Forbidden Secrets of Civilizations Past!"

TL;DR

Young Justice: Phantoms Episode 20 is a mixed bag, ping-ponging across multiple story arcs while attempting to move the story forward. I don’t know if the next episode will end the Rocket story arc or if it’ll have an extra episode like Zatanna’s, but I hope that the writers give her some actual focus instead of letting her story play second fiddle to others.